Students urge Pennsylvania state lawmakers to pass charter school reform bill
September 25, 2012
Patriot News: A couple hundred school children from 10 charter and cybercharter schools gathered on the state Capitol steps today to remind lawmakers of a piece of business that they see as vital to keeping the movement that created these independent public schools advancing.
Students held up signs that read, “Ask why Families R Leaving” and chanted “choice” to urge the lawmakers inside to pass a charter school reform bill that has been stalled in the Legislature for well over a year.
Supportive lawmakers who are helping to lead the charge in passing the bills before Oct. 17 — when the Legislature’s voting session is scheduled to end — were on hand to encourage the students in their lobbying efforts.
A charter-school rally was held at the Capitol in Harrisburg Sept. 24, 2012. For the GOP-controlled Legislature and Republican Gov. Tom Corbett, reforms to Pennsylvaniaâs charter school law will top the agenda for the short pre-election session.
“You’re here not because you want more money, not because you want a better education but because you have what you want in a better education and you are seeking the opportunity for so many others to have what you are now enjoying in a charter education,” said Senate Education Committee Chairman Jeffrey Piccola, R-Dauphin County,
Rep. Tom Killion, R-Chester, spoke of the thousands of families on waiting lists to get into charter schools. “We need that choice,” he said.
The charter school reform bill they are pushing would provide for charter schools to get their money directly from the state instead of through the school districts where their students live. It would create a state panel that would authorize and oversee charters. It would make it easier for school district buildings to be converted to charter schools, among other changes.
While lawmakers were quick to share the talking points about the bill with the crowd, students interviewed needed no coaching.
Fifth-grader Kate Chan from Philadelphia’s Northwood Academy Charter School defined the problem this way. “There aren’t enough seats for children in charter schools,” she said.
Fourth-grader Karson Hair of Mechanicsburg, who came with an army of students from Commonwealth Connections Academy, also was ready with a reason why it was important to keep the charter school movement thriving.
“For some kids, the right school is public school and that’s right for them but you can’t just throw every child into a public school and think they are going to be successful because some kids need better education and cybercharter schools are going to give them that education,” Karson said.